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Bertolt Brecht: Background



Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was born in Augsburg Germany, where he spent his youth. In 1918, while studying medicine at Munich University, he was called up for military service as a medical orderly. Early poems about the horrors of war and his first play Baal (1919), date from this experience. At the war's end, Brecht drifted into the Bohemia world of theatre and literature in Munich and Berlin During the 1920s, Brecht seriously entered the theatre world as a reviewer and playwright, Working with Erwin Piscator, he solidified his own theories of epic theatre and in 1928 wrote The Threepenny Opera (in collaboration with composer Kurt Weill). An overnight success, the play made both Brecht and Weill famous.

With the rise of the Nazi movement in the 1930s,many artists and intellectuals fled Germany, including Kurt Weill and his actress-wife Lotte Lenya. In 1933, Brecht fled with his family to Scandinavia and then toAmerica, where he resided until 1947. As an immigrant member of the motion picture industry, Brecht was subpoenaed in 1947 to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities to testify on the "Communist infiltration" of Hollywood. The day following his testimony, he left the United States and settled in Switzerland and eventually worked in what was then East Berlin where he founded the Berliner Ensemble in 1949. Brecht's writings on epic theory and practice span a period of forty years. However, his greatest plays were written during his years of exile from his native Germany (1933-1948). They are The Good Person of Setzuan, Galileo, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, and Mother Courage and Her Children.

The Theatre of Brecht

An Introduction to Galileo